The way you eat Japanese rice will affect your ability to get the full rush of its moist plumpness, subtle sweetness and fluffy texture, and fully enjoy its unique taste. Let's take a minute to break down the key points that will allow you to eat Japanese rice as deliciously as possible.
When you touch polished rice, you can feel a tiny bit of stickiness---that's the rice bran you are feeling. In order to take off the bran, first you wash the rice. Add the amount you plan to cook into a bowl and cover it with water. With your hands, swish it around two or three times until the water is cloudy. Pour the cloudy water out, and add fresh water, swishing the rice around. Repeat this until the water is clear. In the old days, people called this process "sharpening the rice," referring to the way the ends and edges of the grains rubbed against each other to slough off the bran. But now, given how modern machinery has already prepared the polished rice for you, it's not necessary to use a lot of elbow grease when you wash the rice.
After washing the rice, you add water according to the instructions on your rice cooker. If you're cooking it on the stovetop, the amount of water you use is roughly 1.45 times the amount of rice. But don't turn the heat on just yet. To bring out the full flavors of a dried grain like rice---especially the taste complexities of Japanese rice---you need to first soak it. To make sure the rice absorbs the water consistently throughout the pot, let it sit and soak for about thirty to forty minutes in summer and sixty to ninety in the wintertime.
When the rice is soaked to your liking, just follow the instructions on your rice cooker. If you're using a regular stovetop pot or an enamel pot, just follow these steps. Put the lid on firmly and cook the rice on high heat for about ten minutes. When it boils, turn the heat to low and cook it for about 20 minutes more. Turn the heat off and let it sit as-is for about ten more minutes. If you're using a pressure cooker, close the lid and turn the heat on low, and when the water has boiled and begun to let off steam, turn the heat up to high for about ten minutes. Then reduce to low heat for another three to five minutes. And as in the above case, let it sit for about ten minutes to finish steaming. Because the size of pot and volume of water will vary the exact cooking times will also vary, but this timing and sequencing can work as a rough guide.
By tinkering with the amount of water, soaking time, cooking time and steaming time, you can best bring forth the subtle sweetness and firm but resilient texture of Japanese rice.
In Japan, we have a specific word to describe putting the rice onto a serving dish. It means something like "adorn." When you transfer the glossy rice onto its dish in an elegant manner, you are thought to conduct an almost aesthetic transfer, an "adornment." Ideally, you don't serve the rice as-is straight out of the pot or rice cooker, you put it in a special wooden tub. The composition of the wood allows the rice to breathe freely and lets excess steam escape. Even after the rice cools down, if it's in this tub---called an o-hitsu---it will keep for a while, and will retain its integrity and its taste.